3 Design Principles to Ace Your Video Interview

By Kristen Harris

You’ve been talking to a potential employer or client, are excited about the opportunity, and they’ve asked to schedule an interview. Yippee!! Wait, it’s a video interview? No worries–with a few tips and tricks, you can nail this interview format just as well as in-person. 

Since the 2020 pandemic started in March, people have become much more comfortable conducting meetings via video. Although the technology has been available for years, it was never widely adopted or accepted as a substitute for meeting in-person. Enter the pandemic, with many people suddenly working from home, and now video meetings are the norm. 

While it was a reaction to a crisis, we expect the increased use of video meetings to continue post-pandemic. It’s an inexpensive and convenient way to meet, especially for an initial conversation or first interview. Consider the time and expense of scheduling in-person interviews that require travel across the city or country. Why not utilize video at least for the initial interview, if not the entire hiring process? It can be equally useful in determining whether it’s a good fit for both sides, as long as you do a few things to show your best self. 

Creatives have an advantage in presenting themselves and their work on a video meeting due to their understanding of design principles. 

Color Theory. First, apply principles of color theory when deciding what to wear and where to sit. You are the one object that must be in the frame, so consider what colors you look best in and against. We each have a unique built-in color palette with our skin tone and hair color, so choose clothing and background colors flattering to you and avoid clothing or backgrounds where you blend in. For example, with my coloring and a camel sweater, I’d blend right into a wood-paneled wall; it’s my own personal camouflage! But, in an olive top against a cream wall, you can see me much better. If you really want to get into this, you can look at information on seasonal color types, but the main point is to avoid colors that are too harsh or too similar to your own palette so that you stand out. (Please note, while we’re mainly concerned with the clothing on your top half, please wear something decent on the bottom too. You never know when you’ll have to stand up or grab something during the meeting!)

Contrast and Value. Next, consider levels of contrast and value. The easiest way to do this is to connect into a video meeting link that’s not live and see how you look. (This is also a great chance to check that your camera is working!) With the top and background you’ve chosen, do you stand out? Is there enough difference between your top and the background, or are you a “floating head”? Is your face well lit and easy to see? If not, turn on lights in adjacent rooms or bring in a couple of extra lamps. One thing that makes a big difference is to face a window instead of sitting in front of it. Remember, it doesn’t matter if this is where or how you usually sit to work; you’re just creating a setup that looks good on camera.

Framing and Cropping. While you’re dialed into that test video link, look at exactly what’s in the frame. This is your chance to crop or edit for the best presentation. What’s around, behind, or beside you? Are your clothes, accessories, hairstyle, or decor creating any weird shapes or intersections? If your background is busy and distracting, choose a new location or move items out of the image frame; if it’s boring, drag in a plant or stack of books to liven it up. Remember that the viewer will be staring at you and whatever is behind you the entire time, so make sure it’s what you want them to see. (For one meeting, I created a whole background targeted to that particular client…hey, a little visual psychology can’t hurt!) It doesn’t matter if that artwork is not normally on the wall behind you or if it looks weird off-camera—looking good on video is all that matters. 

Bonus…Sound and Lighting. Select a location that will be a quiet space with no distractions, interruptions, or background noise during your interview time. It’s better to create a simple setup in a quiet location than to have a fabulous background view in a noisy place. Indoors is generally better to avoid wind noise, but if your household is chaotic, then a quiet outdoor space could be better; only you know your best options. Ensure everyone else knows when your interview is and that they can’t interrupt during that time. By minimizing distractions, you keep the focus on you and your work. 

Double bonus….Test Your Tech. None of this careful orchestration of clothing, lighting, or location matters if you have tech issues. As soon as you get the interview meeting link, dial in to test everything. The meeting won’t be live, but you can download any required apps and confirm that your camera and microphone are working. Be sure you know how to share your screen or utilize the tool you’ll use to present your portfolio. Finally, on the big day, dial in 5-7 minutes early to be sure there are no last-minute tech issues; you’ll be logged on and ready to go as soon as the interviewer joins!

While a video interview requires some additional planning, you can control many factors to ensure it goes smoothly. By presenting yourself in the best way possible, you’ll nail it!